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1.32 pm

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey): I am tempted to follow some of the thoughts of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), but I will resist. I am amazed that so many

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intelligent, well-informed and experienced people could put their names to the documents that he told us about. Much of what he and other hon. Members have said today rests on how Russia will respond to NATO enlargement, which I welcome, but with caution, as expressed in the Select Committee's third report.

The House may have overlooked Russia's capability to mount a military reaction to enlargement. There is concern about Russia's economy and internal politics. There is a danger of that enormous country, with all its human and natural resources, imploding. A reactionary leader might then be tempted to go on an external adventure.

Following what my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) said, one has to ask oneself how quickly Russia could tool up for war. At present, its armed forces are totally demoralised--most of them are unpaid and there is massive desertion--and if it made any attempt to tool up for a military adventure, the west would get so much warning that we would be able to respond and, I think, deter any aggression. That is what deterrence is all about. Also, before Russia went on any external adventure via its front door, it would have to bear in mind the 3,500 miles of its back door, which is the People's Republic of China all the way along.

There has been much discussion of enlargement of the European Union as well as of NATO, and the two have a certain synergy. If I were from a central or eastern European country, in terms of security I would far rather go for membership of the EU than of NATO, because achieving comparability with the other NATO member countries and interoperability with their weapons would impose considerable costs. Implicit within membership of the European Union is a mutual security obligation. It is inconceivable that, if any member state were attacked, it would not expect other EU members to come to its assistance.

Much has been said about membership of the Western European Union. However, the Brussels and Washington treaties both contain a fifth article--the mutual security article--so it is inconceivable that any country joining the EU that qualified to join the WEU would not also qualify to join NATO. The Select Committee on Defence has always pointed out that a European country cannot belong to one without belonging to the other.

Another important point is that the EU will enhance trade. In 1975, when we were debating Britain's continued membership of what was then the European Economic Community, a history master in Andover told me that to him the matter was simple. He said, "Where you trade, you have peace, and when trade breaks down, you often have war." My advice to the countries of central and eastern Europe that are concerned and disappointed about the lack of a quicker way to join NATO is to concentrate on achieving EU membership and on maintaining and enhancing the trading links that they had with Russia when they were part of the Soviet Union.

It is time that NATO redefined its mission. For example, at the moment it is geographically restrained--its southern flank is the north coastline of north Africa. We must understand that the world security situation is now completely different. Gone is the stability of the cold war, and the loss of cohesion means that everyone is much freer. All sorts of new problems now face us.

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For instance, a crescent of crisis stretches from the Caspian sea right across the southern flank of NATO, following the fault line between Christian and Muslim communities. In the north African states, there is much fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. By undermining the economies of those countries, the terrorists are sowing the seeds of the sort of problems that could well harm the soft underbelly of the EU and NATO. Therefore, NATO must rethink its strategic concept, which was first drawn up in 1991. It is high time for a new concept, and that should be top of the agenda at the NATO Washington summit next year.

I suggest that the concept might contain, first, the clear mission statement that I asked for; secondly, guidance to the military and defence planners; thirdly, reassurance to world audiences that NATO is still a vital part of the free world's security system and that it is flexible enough to react to anything, anywhere in the world. Finally, it must accommodate the European security and defence identity and the common foreign and security policy without undermining the North Atlantic alliance.

I shall refer briefly to Spain's membership of the integrated military structure, and to Gibraltar. Earlier this week, at the annual general meeting of the British Gibraltar parliamentary group, an event which does not usually generate much parliamentary excitement, concern was expressed about agreement at Madrid that Spain should join the IMS. We were assured by the Foreign Secretary at the time of that agreement that it would not mean a sell-out of Gibraltar. However, many of us felt that, as Spain was so keen to join, the British Government should take the view that, unless Spain stopped harassing the civil population of Gibraltar, it should not enter the IMS of NATO.

The Foreign Office has assured me that a deal has been done with Spain. I should like to know a little more about that. COMGIBMED, the NATO headquarters in Gibraltar, is to close, which will have an impact on the economy of Gibraltar, and there is much concern on the rock, as hon. Members who have visited recently have confirmed. If Spain is to enter the IMS, we must have firm assurances that harassment of military ships and aircraft and of movements connected with NATO exercises will stop. Harassment of the civil population must stop, too.

The Defence Committee has repeatedly said that NATO remains the cornerstone of our security and defence policy. I welcome Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, but I sound a note of caution about further enlargement.

1.40 pm

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) was kind enough to mention my reports to the economic committee of the North Atlantic Assembly on the costs of NATO expansion. Those reports helped to clear obfuscation about the costs of expansion, to which NATO unnecessarily added by its secrecy about the costs.

On 2 December 1997, NATO's meeting of Defence Ministers adopted the conclusion of NATO's senior resources board's study that the costs of new infrastructure would be $1.5 billion over 10 years, as the Foreign Secretary said. That might be an underestimate, but the figure is certainly significantly lower than the Pentagon's estimate, and a fraction of estimates in reports from other bodies such as the congressional budget office.

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Earlier reports made three assumptions. They believed that five countries would join, but there will in fact be three. They believed that there would be forward deployment of forces from current member states into the territory of new members, something that is not necessary. They believed that infrastructure for new member states would have to be compatible with that of existing members, a belief that is not supported by the threat environment or by facilities in the new member states. Those reports therefore came up with such high costs on a flawed basis.

The estimate of $1.5 billion is for common funding of NATO infrastructure. It covers only one category of costs that analysts have linked to enlargement. Other costs will fall to national Governments, not to NATO, and they include restructuring and modernising, particularly for states' own armed forces. The three new countries have agreed to increase defence spending by between 10 and 30 per cent.

Mr. Frank Cook: Has my hon. Friend taken account of the tendency of those in the United States who plump for the higher estimates to use the argument to support their consistent demand for more burden sharing and to justify a higher European contribution?

Mr. Cohen: That is a factor. Some would like European nations to put in much more money, but that is not justified, in my view.

The main emphasis should be on interoperability--which will not happen overnight--better communications between the new members' forces and their allies, training and joint training. The new countries should not be harassed to upgrade their weapons quickly. As long as there is a benign security environment, there is no case for that, or for the excessive cost estimates.

We must resist pressure from militarists and United States right wingers to insist on high defence spending across Europe and especially in the new countries. We must resist United States and other defence contractors who want to use hard sell and make up false threats to try to get those countries to buy weaponry.

Much has been said about Russia. Whatever happens with NATO, one of the most important issues will be how the treaty is seen by non-members, especially Russia. The effects of capitalism are much more likely to leadto trouble in and from Russia than any alliance configuration. Democracy, anti-corruption and economic stability should be the priorities. We have partnership agreements with Russia, which even has a full-time delegation at NATO headquarters. It could be said that Russia is at least a little on board with the new security arrangements whereas, during the cold war, it was not on board at all.

I am not in favour of any return to cold war blocs or cold war thinking. Territorial expansion after military victories invariably breeds resentment and the potential for future wars. The end of the cold war has that potential. It is essential that its end should be seen in terms not of victory and defeat but as an opportunity for a more inclusive new world order incorporating security arrangements for all, including Russia. It is essential to improve NATO's inclusive arrangements for Russia.

Such arrangements must include a conventional forces in Europe agreement, tightened by all NATO countries, as well as Russia, holding fewer arms. NATO countries

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should take the lead in having fewer conventional forces in Europe. The arrangements should lead to nuclear weapons reductions. They are still the greatest danger to the world, and we should take this opportunity to get significant reductions everywhere, not just in Europe. We should play a role in that.

There should be no duplication of militarism. I oppose the expansion of a military role based on the European Union. I do not think that the European Union should have a military wing in addition to what exists in NATO. That would be duplication.

NATO must change. That it changes is more important than expansion. The shadow Defence Secretary's comments about NATO being hard or soft were most unhelpful. The combined military force of NATO countries is massive. It could more than ably deal with any conventional threat. The weak link is political liaison and the potential for mistrust and misunderstanding. So, with the cold war over, there has to be far more of a political role for NATO. That is why I welcome the defence diplomacy aspects described my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in the strategic defence review last week. That has to be extended to NATO.

We must have observation, verification and joint exercises with the non-member countries such as Russia, in order to increase mutual trust. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe should have an expanded role as well.

The three new states are joining NATO because they want to. I believe that they have unduly high expectations of what they will get out of membership. Some may view it as a panacea, and I certainly do not think that it is that, but they want to join, and those views should be respected. However, that does not make any automatic case for their joining. Existing NATO members can also say no or not yet if they choose. I believe that they should say that in respect of any significant future expansion. Integration should be tilted towards the European Union instead in the first instance. That is where the emphasis should be over the next decade.

Defence is an insurance policy, but it can be costly. Money for social purposes such as schools and hospitals is lost as a result of defence spending, so it should be kept to the minimum deemed essential. Alliances and co-operation between states can lead to improved security for all and to less cost than defence which is born out of mistrust. I favour greater communication, co-operation and partnership between states. I favour far greater inclusivity rather than isolation, within which threats are imagined and exaggerated to dangerous proportions.

A security system is better than none at all. However, it should not be at exorbitant cost or be unnecessarily heavily armed. It must be an institution for peace, not a threat to world peace in itself. It must be inclusive, not exclusive. That is why NATO must change politically. NATO's peacekeeping role in Bosnia, including the non-NATO states, points to one of the ways forward to that change.

The way in which NATO is run also needs to change. It is a different animal now than it was in the cold war. The United States' tendency to insist on, or dominate, decision making, or to threaten not to engage if it does not get its way, should give way to a more open, equal, consensual decision-making process involving all the

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NATO members. NATO expansion is going ahead, but it is its political role, with an emphasis on inclusivity and co-operation, that needs to be expanded.

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